Hazelwood Mine Fire, Brown Coal and Climate Change

Climate emergency Independent in Gippsland East Peter Gardner has criticised the shallowness of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Royal Commission. He has pointed out that  climate change was not dealt with in the commission’s terms of reference. Yet climate change was almost certainly a contributing factor in the Hazelwood Mine Fire and is increasing the likelihood of severe fires in the Valley’s open cuts.

Gardner states that the public impression that coal mine fires are infrequent is incorrect and noted that: “Brown coal has been mined for 125 years since 1889 and there have been fires in the open coal pits of the Latrobe Valley on at least 8 occasions. These occurred in 1902, 1927, 1929, 1944, 1977, 1983, 2006 and 2014. This information is incomplete and there may have been other times when spot fires entered the pits and were quickly extinguished.”

“Further there have been many occasions in that same period when bushfires either burned the country now covered by the open cuts or were nearby. These include the Black Saturday fires which threatened Loy Yang.”

He also noted that: “there are other related effects of brown coal open cut and electricity generation that have threaten and continue to threaten our health and our electricity supplies. These include flooding, subsidence, earthquakes and mercury and other heavy metal pollution in the Gippsland Lakes.”

“With climate change upon us the likelihood of these fires and other hazards occurring in the open cuts is increasing dramatically. It is time for us to embark on massive a “Snowy Mountains” style program to change completely from coal generated electricity to renewable energy as quickly and smoothly as possible.” 

Gardner attacked both the major parties and their grandiose plans for further brown coal developments including the recent (September) public grant of $25 million to a Chinese company to produce briquettes to sell to the electricity generators. He is firmly opposed to any new coal or onshore gas developments stating that farming must have priority over these mining projects. As Tim Flannery said “Coal is the new asbestos.”

Centralised coal mines and electricity generation are vulnerable to climate change related threats including bushfire threats to mines, generators substations and transmission lines and surges in demand during heatwaves.  Gardner advocates improving reliability by obtaining power from variety of renewable sources and the establishment of micro grids.

PRESS RELEASE No.7 (20.10.14)

Are the Bats of Bairnsdale a Warning of Climate Change?

The increasing numbers of grey headed flying foxes along the Mitchell River may be a sign of climate change claims Independent candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner.

Gardner noted that this year may have been the first time that the bats have wintered over and that they are very sensitive to climate, food sources and loss of habitat. He noted with climate change that: “Flying foxes have shifted hundreds of kilometres south in their habitat range” and that studies have indicated: “that climate change is forcing the locations of species towards the cooler poles by an average of 6 km per decade”.

“Whilst visits of flying foxes in parts of Gippsland have been recorded more than 100 years ago man-made climate change has also been happening very gradually as long as accurate records have been kept.”

Professor Lesley Hughes of Macquarie University an expert on the impact climate change has on plants and animals noted: “Despite temperatures having warmed by less than a degree [over the last century], the impact of that on [many] species has been surprising…It’s a window on the future I suppose…The bottom line is that every species will be influenced by climate change, either directly or indirectly.”*

This prediction by Professor Hughes was clearly illustrated by events in Queensland during a heatwave early this year. On the 6 January the Sydney Morning Herald under the headline “Heatwave Decimates Flying Fox Colony” stated: “Dead flying foxes have been falling from the sky in droves because of the heatwave sweeping south-east Queensland. Hundreds of thousands of the large bats may have died as temperatures soared to 43 degrees over the weekend…In Ipswich, south-west of Brisbane, more than 1000 dead flying foxes had to be cleared from a single park on Saturday.”

Gardner notes: “It is a sad fact, little recognized by the media, that heatwaves also have a similar effect on human beings, their pets and other domestic animals. Morbidity statistics indicate that the heatwave of 2009 caused more than 370 extra fatalities – mostly amongst the sick and elderly. Figures for the January 2014 heatwave in Victoria indicate 167 extra fatalities, a 97% increase in calls for cardiac issues and a ‘significant increase in the demand for emergency care’. Heatwaves are now occurring five times more frequently this century than last and that the 2013 heatwave could not possibly have occurred without man made climate change.”

“Are the Bats of Bairnsdale the ‘canary in the coal mine’”? Gardner asks. “Are they a warning sign telling us that to forget the false or trivial messages of mainstream media and look what is happening before our eyes? If so it is time to commence serious action now by adopting a range of policies on climate change including changing over from coal to sustainable energy sources – in particular solar – as quickly as possible.”

Press Release No.6 (13.10.14)

Heatwaves and Man-made Climate Change

Climate Emergency Independent candidate in the seat of Gippsland East Peter Gardner has emphasized that extreme weather events – droughts, heatwaves and bushfires – are heavily influenced by climate change. These events are happening on a regular basis and are predicted to get worse. Recent studies have confirmed this

2013 was Australia’s hottest year since records began. Five recent studies on the heatwave in January 2013 have calculated the effects of man-made climate change on this event. One study in particular compared the influence of greenhouse gases added by humans to the atmosphere by running two computer models many thousands of times. The model without the added greenhouse gases from human activity found that a heatwave of the January 2013 dimensions would occur once every 12,000 years. When the greenhouse gases from burning coal and fossil fuels are added then the heatwave is predicted to occur every 6 years. The conclusion is that human induced climate change has made this event 2000 times more likely to occur.

One of the Authors of this study Dr. Sophie Lewis of Australian National University stated: “Instead of focusing on blame, it is more useful to understand the contributing factors to an event, such as natural variability and greenhouse warming. In the case of Australia’s record hot year, anthropogenic influences were a big contributor, to the point that the temperatures we experienced would have been virtually impossible without [the additional man-made] greenhouse gases.”

Gardner stated that: “The Bureau of Meteorology has calculated that heatwaves are five times more likely to occur this century then last. To this we can add droughts and associated bushfires. Gippsland has already seen a marked increase in severe bushfires this century compared with last. The strain these emergency events are putting on human resources, emergency services and finances is substantial and is predicted to get worse.”

“If man made the Jan 2013 heatwave 2000 times more likely then climate change was probably also a major contributor to the heatwave in early 2009 which, with the Black Saturday bushfires, killed 500 people. So too it must have influenced the vast bushfires of the Alpine region in 2003 and 2006/7 and the more recent fires in Gippsland this year including the Hazelwood Mine fire.

“This should be the news dominating our newspaper headlines, the airwaves and the television screens – not a cruel conflict in the Middle East or the fate of a football coach. We are in a climate emergency where the survival of mankind is at stake. It is time to put aside the divisions of politics and work together to combat these threats to us now.”

“You can start by voting 1 for Gardner in the forthcoming state election and then casting your preference to the party of your choice. This will send a message to all the major parties that it is time to put aside their differences and get serious about climate change.”

Press Release No 5 (6.10.14)

Candidate Criticises Radical Views on Climate Change

Independent Candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner lashed out at what he called “science denying radicals” running the conservative parties across the country.

He stated that: “The conservative parties in Australia and North America seem captured by science denying radicals. Where are the moderates of the Liberal and National parties on this matter? Where are the moderates of the Menzies and Hamer eras?

Malcolm Turnbull, when leader of the federal opposition, said: “Climate change is a global problem. The planet is warming because of the growing level of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. If this trend continues, truly catastrophic consequences are likely to ensue from rising sea levels, to reduced water availability, to more heat waves and fires”. In the meantime both the state of politics and the effects of climate change are getting worse.

“Coalition voters are rightly concerned when they hear things like the Shepparton farmer who bulldozed his 10,000 peach trees because weather patterns are now no longer right for growing peaches. This is in an area no longer suitable for peach growing, where there are now too many hot spells and frosts and damaging summer rains for peaches.*

Coalition voters are also rightly concerned when their farming land is threatened by Coal and Coal Seam Gas developments. By projects that threaten to industrialise the countryside from the Latrobe Valley to Orbost. Farmers have the most to gain from effective policies against climate change and the most to lose in the long term if these policies are ineffectual.

“Many sensible policies like the Renewable Energy Target, Energy Efficiency programs and the Feed in Tariff for rooftop solar are all under attack both state and federally. In Victoria the Napthine government has brought the wind industry to a standstill. Why is there not also a 2 kilometre exclusion zone for the far more harmful coal and coal seam gas projects proposed across Gippsland? The answer is that none of these projects would proceed under such restrictions.

“The Napthine government has also twice slashed the feed-in-tariff for solar energy from household rooftops to 8 cents, continued to subsidise and promote brown coal, dumped their emissions reduction target, scrapped solar hot water rebates and instructed public servants not to use the words ‘climate change’.

“Why is this problem based on sound science and so recently accepted by the Liberals and Nationals in a bipartisan fashion now so divisive? Is it because the anti-science faction owes the big multinational (and mostly foreign owned) electricity generators, coal and CSG companies a favor?

“Climate change affects us all. For many voters there now seems nowhere to go as the coalition has been taken over by radicals who are reversing most climate action and are intent on major fossil fuel developments. It is time for the major parties and all politicians at all levels of government to return to a bipartisan approach and to treat the problem with the seriousness it deserves.

“You can help send a direct message to Spring St and the major parties by firstly voting independent or minor party before casting your preference for the party of your choice.


PRESS RELEASE No.4 (29.9.14)

Opposition to Coal Mining and Coal Seam Gas

Climate activist Peter Gardner is completely opposed to any development of coal seam gas (CSG), tight gas, shale gas or any new coal mines in Victoria.  He is standing in the seat of Gippsland East in the forthcoming State election as an independent.

Gardner stated that: “All these projects are putting more greenhouse gases in the air when we should be working to avoid them completely. To avoid worst case climate scenarios such as low level runaway global warming we first need to stabilise these emissions and then to quickly reduce them.”

“We have to wean ourselves off dirty coal and any other developments that increase our greenhouse gas output. Escaping methane from gas wells is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and CSG as an energy source may be no better than dirty coal.”

Gardner’s opposition to coal and CSG is primarily motivated by climate change but he recognises that there are many other objections to this form of mining including the process of fracking, the threat to groundwater, air and water pollution, and the loss of good farming land and Gippsland’s image as clean food producer.

Whilst Gardner’s opposition to CSG and coal mining is obvious his objection to other mining projects is also based on climate change. He states: “All mining projects should be subsidy free and carbon neutral. In particular the large number of vehicles trucking ore concentrates from Benambra to Geelong or from Nowa Nowa to Eden should be taken into account before these operations are allowed to proceed. This includes the proposed mineral sands projects at Mossiface and Glenaladale.” He noted that these projects have many of the same faults as CSG and coal mining.

“I have an unnegotiable position of complete opposition to all CSG, unconventional gas and coal projects. The electors of East Gippsland can send a strong message to Spring St. (and also to Canberra) by giving me your vote before casting your second preference to the party of your choice.”

Gardner is offering a range of policies that he hopes will reinvigorate small country towns as well as starting to reduce emissions and adapt to the warming that is already ‘in the pipeline’.

200 locals say ‘yes’ to climate change action now

Over 200 people gathered on Metung’s Village Green on Sunday in a spectacular demonstration of local support for climate change action. The rally was part of a day of global climate mobilisation. Around the world, 2766 events in 161 countries combined to make it the largest climate march in history.

The global action was planned to coincide with the United Nations’ emergency Climate Change Summit in New York on Tuesday where more than 100 world leaders are meeting in recognition of the urgency to respond to the world’s biggest threat.

Organiser of the Metung event, GetUp member Jenny Herbert said that the local turnout was exceptional, representing nearly 12 per cent of the Metung/Nungurner population. ‘Although there were rallies around the world, from India to Istanbul, London to Canada, New York to Melbourne, few places would have come close to such substantial representation of the local population. The numbers reinforce how widespread local support is for stronger action on climate, renewables and a clean and prosperous future for Australia and the world.’

Climate change activist Peter Gardner addressed the crowd, pointing out that climate change is not a belief but an indisputable scientifically established fact, backed by 99.9 per cent of climate change scientists. He said there was urgent need for action to counter this serious global problem, and that major party politicians must be persuaded to stop putting money into the coal industry. (see full speech global warming politics page)

Other quotes from the crowd included:

Jonathon Smith: ‘The country has been hijacked by the fossil fuel industry.’

Mendy Urie: ‘Listen to the science, Tony.’

Audrey Porter, whose most recent great grandchild was born last Thursday: ‘ I am concerned about what we are doing to the planet, and what we are leaving to our children and grandchildren.’

Rob Barton: ‘We must work through the existing political channels by physically visiting local MPs’ offices to voice our concerns.’

Richard Thompson: ‘We share one earth, and we share the responsibility to preserve it.’

Tony Smith: ‘If the oceans die, we die.’

Greens candidate Scott Campbell-Smith said that the fossil fuel industry is causing untold damage. ‘They control the debate in the media. But people want clean energy: renewables are already at price parity and they are going to get cheaper. It is the failure of our representatives that clean energy is not being promoted.’

Media contact:  Jenny Herbert, 0417304841

Press Release 2 13 September


Climate Emergency Independent candidate for Gippsland East Peter Gardner has released some details of his policies on his website. They are designed either to reduce carbon pollution or adapt to the changes in heat and extreme weather that threaten us from climate change.

They also counter the accusation that he is a single issue candidate. Some of his policies concern employment, what he calls the ‘renewable energy revolution’, coal seam gas and mining, emergency services and public transport. They can be viewed on his website.

Whilst the Federal government is contemplating a reduction in, or abolition of, the renewable energy target (RET) and Victoria’s RET is long gone, Gardner is arguing that the target be doubled by 2020 and to aim for 100% renewable energy by 2030.

“Whilst this is a mammoth task it is possible and may need a war-time style organisation of society. Something like a massive “Snowy Mountains Scheme” will be needed to quickly achieve the transformation from dirty coal to clean and limitless power from the sun.”

“Beyond Zero Emissions and Melbourne University have provided a detailed study of how this transformation can be achieved in as little as ten years. This program has many advantages including boosting employment and business generally – especially in regional areas.”

“Many of the disadvantages of coal can be partially or totally avoided including excessive water consumption, air and water pollution, and the possible subsidence of land in the valley and along the coast. These problems affect Gippslanders now.

“Decentralisation of power sources means a more secure and robust energy system. It means more income for farmers, businesses and households if they are paid a fair price for the energy they produce, instead of profits being sent overseas. The establishment of micro-grids and the encouragement of renewable energy – especially solar – is the way to go.”

“There are a large number of ways this can be achieved but the easiest to initiate is to reinvigorate the business and household rooftop solar program by offering a fair price for any excess power produced by these systems. Gardner suggests that the price should be the same as a household pays for each incoming unit of power.

Vote Climate Vote Solar Campaign On Again

Press Release No.1         1.9.14

Peter Gardner who campaigned recently as a “climate emergency” Independent in last year’s Federal election has announced he will be standing in Gippsland East. Gardner stated:

I have lived and worked in the Ensay and Swifts Creek districts for 40 years and am now resident in Bairnsdale. I have been concerned for some time that the threat of climate change is real and may be far worse than either the media or the politicians tell us.” In particular Gardner refers to the extreme weather events closely related to climate change – more severe droughts, floods, heatwaves and related bushfires.

“Consequently I have been standing for office on a ‘Vote Climate Vote Solar’ ticket at all levels of government. I have devoted my time and funds to this process since 2008.  I will be standing again in Gippsland East in November and have a range of policies to provide employment, improved emergency services and public transport and in particular the rapid changeover to renewable sustainable energy sources.”

Gardner is firmly opposed to any further coal or CSG projects in Gippsland on climate grounds alone but noted that “There are a large number of related problems with these proposed developments including loss of viable farm land, a valuable water resource, polluting the air, water tables and the Gippsland lakes and subsidence along the Gippsland coast.

He is promoting community energy projects, upgraded and better maintained rail and connecting services, and a massive expansion of emergency services in rural communities including permanent full time fire officers with an apprentice fire officer in each CFA station. This will help cope with the increasing number of extreme weather emergencies we are facing. All these projects will generate local employment.

These proposals and many other rural developments can be financed by abandoning the East West road tunnel in Melbourne and working on cheaper solutions to Melbourne’s transport problems.

If elected he has committed himself to voting with the Liberal Coalition in Government or the Nationals in opposition on all matters not concerned with climate change except in matters of conscience where he would not vote at all. In the event of a tied parliament he would support a Liberal National government.

Gippsland Climate & CSG October Calendar

Lock the Gate Victoria Stall @ Garden Expo! Sat 11th & Sun 12th Oct 10am-4pm Lardner Park, Lardner (10 mins from Warragul) We need volunteers, could you spare 2-3 hours? Please email: to be added to the volunteer roster, thanks

Gippsland Alliance meeting10.30am Sharp, Sunday 12th October Lavalla College, Traralgon, Classroom at the back.Representatives from all over Gippsland get together every 6 weeks to hear about what we have all been doing, work together on projects, support and inspire.If you have not attended before please rsvp to:

Yarram Gasfield Information Night 7.30pm Wednesday 15th October Regent Theatre, Main St, Yarram Speaker: Mark Ogge from The Australia Institute Contact Julie 0429 464 486

Gasfield Free Bairnsdale meeting 7pm Tuesday 28th October Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House, 27 Dalmahoy Street or call Debbie 0448 809 798

Gasfield Free Seaspray meeting Friday 18th November, 6.30pm Dinner, 7pm meeting starts Seaspray Hall, Seaspray Contact: for more information

South Gippsland Political Forum 1pm Sunday 19th October Football Clubrooms (Walter J Tuck Reserve) Strzelecki Hwy, Mirboo North Confirmed candidates attending so far are Labor, Greens, Independent & Country Alliance Contact: or call Marg 0408 319 397

Press Release No 7: 3.9.13

Independent candidate says Heatwaves and Bushfires Immediate Problem

Independent candidate Peter Gardner is campaigning on a Vote Climate Vote Solar ticket and is concerned that the threat of climate change is far worse than either the media or the politicians are telling us. Bushfires have always been a part of the Gippsland landscape but the problem has been made worse by climate change. This is influencing extreme weather events making them both more severe and more common.

“Three fire events in Gippsland in the last decade can be classified as 1 in 100 year events according to their area, ferocity, property damage and casualties. The fire season has become much longer – by as much as two months with the 2006/7 fires extending across the summer from November. In parts of the USA the frequency of bushfires has also increased over the last four decades by as much as 4 times. The combined factors of more hot days, extended periods of drought interspersed with periods of heavy rainfall, increased storm and winds and heatwaves that suck the moisture out of the land are all contributing to this increased fire danger.

“Aside from the threat to property and person bushfires are a continuous threat to the tourist industry. A bushfire almost anywhere in the region often deters people from visiting the district though the fire may be a hundred miles or more from their destination. As a tourist dependent shopkeeper I lost substantial income in both 2003 and in 2006/7 due to the bushfires. With the frequency of fires increasing this loss of income is likely to be felt across the tourist industry.

“Heatwaves in Paris (2003) and Moscow (2010) killed an extra 15,000 and 11,000 people respectively. The Moscow heatwave was called in the press a one in one thousand years event. Often it is the hotter nights where the temperatures fail to drop significantly that are so threatening to life. Cities and towns also act as heat banks making the problem worse. Mortality figures indicate that the heatwave prior to ‘Black Saturday’ caused 374 extra fatalities mostly the elderly.

“Floods and droughts are also on the increase in both frequency and severity. With each degree of increase in average temperature the air can hold a further 7% of moisture. Unfortunately this does not mean it will fall on you although occasionally it will – in excess.  The rainfall that fell on Australia in 2010-11 causing record floods also caused the gradually rising ocean to temporarily retreat by 7mm. Gippsland has also experienced lengthy droughts during this century.

“There is need to prepare for future extreme weather events and related catastrophes like floods and bushfires,” Mr Gardner said. “And there is a need for the major parties to recognise the seriousness of the problem and for responsible action instead of jockeying for political advantage. The approach to climate change should be bipartisan and directed by the best science and not by the lobbyists of the fossil fuel industry. A rapid transfer from fossil based energy to renewable energy is one of the many ways we can attempt to mitigate climate change warming.